I had meant to post a couple of entries on the subject of tactics last week, but the Great Hummus Wars and a couple of other side projects delayed that a bit.
So let’s kick things off today with some tactical considerations drawn from BDS and anti-BDS activities that have been taking place since school kicked off in September.
On the BDS front, it’s clear that boycott, divestment and sanctions remains top priority for the “Israel-disliking” community. At nearly every Israel-related event I’ve gone to that’s been big enough to draw protestors, signs blaring “BDS” are held aloft (interesting in and of itself since it implies a tactic so well known – at least to the protestors – that the acronym alone is all that is needed to identify it).
Despite its continuation as a high priority, however, a lack of potential targets seems to be making it difficult for the BDSers to choose appropriate tactics for getting their way. After the Hampshire hoax, school administrators are no longer taking their phone calls, and Israel-supporting students on campuses are on high alert for divestment resolutions getting snuck into student councils as they were at Berkeley last year. Attempts to spread boycotts at food co-ops fell flat before the Autumn kicked in, and even attempts at boycott hoaxes are being called out within hours, preventing them from turning into major media stories.
Perhaps this is why prominent BDS organizations are calling for repeats of boycotts that have already failed (yet another Ahava protest is scheduled for Boston this weekend) or asking supporters to “dance for Palestine” (which indicates that the only area where BDS remains strong is as a project designed to generate social bonding among the protestors themselves).
On our side, the happiest trend seems to be the growing awareness that BDS is not an existential or even overwhelming threat, but simply just another tactic for smearing the Jewish state (and not a particularly successful on at that) that needs to be dealt with.
Ben Cohen’s exposure of the Dutch retirement fund BDS hoax or the reversal of the Strauss Group’s temporary erasure of support for the Golani Brigade from its web site share something in common: they both occurred because a single activist decided to pick up the phone and do something. And lo and behold, all it took was one round of communication to get these BDS “successes” exposed or reversed.
To a certain extent, last week’s Hummus Wars at Princeton, as ridiculous as they were in some respects, represents a new willingness to challenge BDS wherever it rears its ugly head. The Princeton Tigers for Israel group could have easily sat out the debate and lived with the consequences (which were always destined to be small). But instead, they picked up the gauntlet thrown down by the boycotters at their school and – lo and behold – won what turned out to have been an easy victory.
The dirty little secret of battling against BDS is that it’s not all that hard. For a “movement” built on frauds and shouting and dancing and smearing mud on one another is just not that difficult to defeat with a little initiative, occasional ridicule, calm presentation of our side of the story (i.e., the truth) and an unwillingness to take the ongoing challenges posed by the boycotters sitting down.
Ethan Felson from JCPA encapsulates this spirit perfectly in his call for the Jewish community to give BDS a well-deserved kick in the pants by buying Israel this holiday season and focusing on all of those things BDS is against: reconciliation, civility, promotion of peace and willingness to listen to one another.
As more and more people are catching on that the divestment emperor has no clothes, the pleasure I’ve kind of been hogging of exposing this nakedness seems to be going mainstream. And what could be a better holiday gift than that?